Start Your Project

From our experience, a Pongo-inspired project can take three forms: Simple, classic & classroom.

Simple Pongo Project

Young people want to heal. They want to be heard! With this in mind, it can be remarkably easy to begin:

  • Provide youth with a space and a time to write
  • Read published Pongo youth poetry to encourage the youth you serve. Available at our bookstore here! 
  • Share youth writing aloud and respond with encouragement
  • Save youth writing—even if it’s just in a binder to start
  • Offer support in the form of:
    • One-on-one Poetry Mentoring using Pongo techniques. Click here to find out about upcoming trainings where you can observe and participate in hands on practice of these techniques!

Use Pongo fill-in-the-blanks. Free for download here!

Classic Pongo Project

Pongo Classic involves a group of 4-5 Pongo-trained Poetry Mentors facilitating a weekly poetry writing workshop with a small group of youth in a one-to-one ratio. Though Pongo has run poetry workshops with fewer mentors, we have noticed the one-on-one work most effectively catalyzes a poet’s healing process, resulting in powerful personal poetry.

Classic Pongo projects consist of 4 basic parts:

  1. Introduction (5-10 minutes)
  2. Group Poem activity as warm-up (15-20 minutes)*
  3. One-on-one writing with youth (30-45 minutes)
  4. Group sharing at end (10-20 minutes)

Each component is described in-depth in Writing with At-Risk Youth and during Pongo trainings. To start your own Classic Pongo project you will have to answer some questions, including:

  • What population do you want to work with?
  • Where can this population be accessed? (institution, community center, church?)
  • When will this population be available? (during the school day, after school, during the school year, summer only?)
  • How long do you want your project to run? (1 month, 10 weeks, 6 months?)
  • If working with residents or students in an institution, who will be your staff liaison, who can help your project stay in sync within an organizational milieu?
  • Who will be your Poetry Mentors? (friends, staff, older/more mature peers?)
  • Will the group be closed (same youth each week) or open/ drop-in?
  • What will be your policies around confidentiality, assessing risk, safety, and reporting?
  • How will you obtain consent from writers to share and/or publish their work?
  • How will you celebrate writer’s accomplishments during each session and at the end of the project?

For guidance on answering these questions, purchase Writing with At-Risk Youth , attend a Pongo training, or inquire about a Pongo Trainer consultation.

*Though Group Poetry Writing can be skipped due to time-constraints or challenging group dynamics, Group Poem creation can be fun and can build toward greater group cohesion.

Classroom Pongo Project

To facilitate Pongo-inspired poetry activities in the classroom, instructors can lead students through the following components:

  • Introduction (15 minutes)
  • Group Poem writing activity on a theme (15-30 minutes)
  • Independent writing by youth on the theme (15-30 minutes)
    1. Offer Pongo writing activities on the theme for student support
  • Invite participant sharing to close session (15 minutes)

To facilitate teens’ openness, creativity, and dialogue, teachers should choose a theme. Themes should be non-intrusive (for example, themes should not force students to write on their trauma), but should be relevant to the emotional concerns of young people who may be leading challenging lives. Need help? Check out our writing activities  and bookstore for ideas.